WI-MAX Promises to Transform America?s InternetIn 2007, the average US home internet speed was 1.97 megabits per second. In Japan at the same time, was 61 megabits per second, South Korea 45 megabits per second, and even Canada eclipsed the US with 7 megabits per second being the average home speeds.
America is falling far behind the rest of the world. Since those statistics were released by the Communications Workers of America one year ago, American internet speeds have remained fairly stable, whilst those of other nations have continued to climb.
The reasons behind this are legion, but one of the main ones being that almost all US Internet access is controlled by the phone line operators, who have little to no incentive to spend out on increasing the infrastructure to support higher speeds. The US has been destined for an eventual relegation to the sidelines of international markets due to this, but hope is now on the horizon, in the form of bypassing the telecoms companies and the phone lines, altogether.
Several of the larger technology companies, including Google, are joining together for the Clearwire project; an effort to develop a nation-wide Wi-MAX network intended to render cable or phone line Internet obsolete and set the stage for free Google net access supported by advertising alone.
WI-MAX is still relatively slow compared to Asian countries' speeds - it can deliver up to 70 megabits per second in the same range as Wi-Fi or 10 megabits per second over a radius of up to 50 kilometres. Several Asian countries are routinely offering 100megabit per second connections - however, it is a good start.
"It is like mobile Internet in your pocket," said Scenna Pabesh, a spokeswoman for non-profit Wi-MAX Forum, an industry group that promotes interoperability of networks and devices using the format.
"Anything you could imagine doing in your office or on a hefty Internet connection at home you are going to be able to do on the go."
Wi-MAX is already deployed in 110 countries, with the US being one of the last to join the list - many of those faster internet countries like Japan and Korea utilise it extensively. Next Wednesday's unveiling of Clearwire should ensure the United States can catch up with those nations.
The Asian Pacific region leads in Wi-MAX adoption. South Korea is considered a "success model" with 150,000 people, most of them in Seoul, subscribing to Wi-MAX mobile services.
Wi-MAX takes advantage of broadband frequency spectrums and was likely on Google's mind when it got US regulators to make open access a condition in a recent 700 MHz spectrum auction.
The Clearwire network is not expected to actually be deployed in the United State for several years, and may be delayed for longer with legal battles if the phone companies start to see it as a true threat to their revenue.